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Open Access, Open Science, Open Government, Open Education. We often see these as new movements, set against an old world of broken – and closed – systems of scholarship and education. New technologies, primarily the web, have lifted the veil from our eyes to let us see this new world. If only we could build the right technology...mandate the right behavior then a new utopia of open scholarship will be upon us! The problem with this view is that it sees the disruption of the web as a one-off event that once worked through will provide a solution for all time. Framed that way this is obviously not true, but the challenge goes deeper than that. Scholarship, in its western institutionalized forms, has increased in scale continuously for at least 400 and possibly 2000 years. No social or institutional system can scale continuously over several order of magnitude. Therefore we must expect structural historical breaks.
The question is not how to fix scholarship, but how on earth it has managed to last this long? I will argue that what sits at the core of this survival is a set of normative cultural values that privilege openness. Their application has been far from perfect but the concepts of communication, criticism, civility and inclusion have deep roots in our institutions and communities. At the same time community and identity are critical to scholarship, and both of these imply exclusion and boundary work to define community. My argument is that the culture, forms and values of western scholarship have held these two tendencies in productive tension, allowing the academy to address the ongoing scaling (and consequent inclusion) problem through social, technical and economic innovation. Our challenge is not simply to solve today's problems, but to re-imagine our institutions so that they continuously generate and are able to adopt the innovations necessary to continue to solve the scaling problem into the indefinite future.